Just testing: Subaru Outback 2.5i SE Premium Lineartronic

Cinderella brand or genuine Volvo contender? Tim Gibson weighs the merits of Subaru’s rugged AWD estate

By Tim Gibson

Next time you head to a rural Waitrose, look closely at the vehicles lined up in the car park.

    (96 per cent of Subarus sold in the last decade are still on the road)  

In among the inevitable Volvo XC70s and Audi All Roads, you’ll most likely see at least one Subaru Outback. Chances are it’ll be caked in filth, with a pervasive stink of dog, horse or farm about it (and maybe all three). It may well be extremely elderly.

Now, I guarantee that when its owner (who could be wearing red cords and a tatty Barber jacket) clambers aboard, it will start on the button, with nary a stutter. Instead, you’ll hear the distinctive burble of its flat-four boxer engine, before the car roars off majestically.

Then you’ll be left with a sense of crushing disappointment in whatever non-Subaru vehicle you happen to drive.

You see, Subarus have an inalienable presence. They last for donkeys’ years (96 per cent of Subarus sold in the last decade are still on the road) and combine rugged all-wheel drive capability with genuine driver pleasure.

Remember those gold-wheeled Imprezas that used to yang around town in the 1990s? There’s a reason they were so popular among boy racers of every age.

All of which begs a question: why aren’t there more Subarus on the road? If they’re so brilliant, why aren’t the buying public flocking to their local dealership and placing an order?

As with most things, it’s all to do with branding. Subaru has long been regarded as a niche manufacturer, a bit like Saab, or Volvo before it got cool. If you know the company, you’ll most likely stick with it forever. But it’s rare to see a Scooby on the front cover of What Car? They’re just not mainstream enough.

Didn’t stop me from getting an all-new Outback on test, though. This is the first version in a while not to be available with a turbo diesel engine, which is an initial source of regret to me. But Subaru’s heritage has always been in petrols. It only launched diesel derivatives in the 2000s to meet the burgeoning demand for heavy fuel that was prompted by government incentives. And we all know how that worked out.

So a 2.5-litre petrol lump it is – and a lovely one at that. Power output is 175PS, allied to a maximum torque of 235Nm @ 4,000rpm that’s delivered through a smooth Continuously Variable Transmission with step changes to feel like a conventional automatic. It’s not sh*t-off-a-shovel fast, but it’s more than enough to raise a smile along a quiet back road.

If I have one concern about the move away from diesel power, it’s to do with the Outback’s popularity as a tow car. I’ve pulled a heavy caravan with a diesel version of the vehicle’s predecessor, and it was brilliant in every way. But the petrol plant lacks low-down torque, and I wonder if it will be quite so formidable with a tonne and a half of metal strapped to the back.

    The SE Premium spec version comes with heated leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and – steering-responsive headlights.  

That said, the Outback takes a lot of beating when solo. Despite raised suspension, it’s far more car-like than your average SUV or crossover. Not quite as refined as a Volvo V60 XC, but more competent in genuinely challenging off-road conditions. And the Subaru’s relative lack of plushness will undoubtedly inspire confidence in your average country dweller.

Not that the Outback is in any way spartan. The SE Premium spec version comes with heated leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and – my absolute favourite around dark country lanes – steering-responsive headlights.

All models get Subaru’s brilliant X-MODE all-wheel drive system that breeds genuine capability in the rough stuff. I once drove a version of this car through a waterlogged Welsh quarry and was amazed by its ability to keep up with a fleet of highly modified Land Rover Defenders.

The car also gets Subaru’s Volvo-challenging EyeSight technology, which delivers features such as adaptive cruise control and emergency autonomous braking. That makes it an easy companion for long hauls up the motorway, bringing welcome reassurance, especially if you’re tired.

Sure, it’s a bit twitchy in comparison to your average family estate or saloon. But such vehicles won’t have the go-anywhere magnificence that is hard wired into the Outback. And they won’t give you the same sense that you’re driving a genuinely unusual vehicle, helping you stand apart from the crowd.

This distinctive character is both a blessing and a curse. Subaru dealers tell me they struggle to get buyers into their vehicles, because of their quirky image. They also struggle to get converts to upgrade, because Subarus seem to get better as they age.

That probably explains why the franchise network is relatively sparse. If you want to test drive an Outback, you’ll have to travel a bit further than your local town. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, in which case your local dealership is probably right next door. That’s a clue to the company’s strongest markets.

This won’t be a problem once you’ve bought the car. A recent survey by warranty provider MotorEasy identified Subaru as the UK’s most reliable manufacturer. So you should only need to visit the workshop for routine servicing, which is likely to be more affordable than for prestige brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

All told, then, the Outback is a highly credible vehicle. If you like its image (personally I love it) you’ll no doubt be smitten. If you think it’s just too agricultural, so be it. God invented Volvo for people just like you.

On test

  • Subaru Outback 2.5i SE Premium Lineartronic CVT
  • 175PS
  • 33mpg combined (official figures)
  • 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds
  • 166g/km CO2 emissions
  • Price: £33,025 (but deals to be had on nearly new and ex-demos)

Tim Gibson has written about cars for 25 years. His work regularly appears in The Daily Telegraph and other national media.

Published: 10 May 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Just testing: how to pick up a tax break on your next company car

You may also enjoy: Just cooking: barbecue rotisserie prime ribs of beef

Jobs currently available

New job
Lettings Negotiator
Sector: Property and Construction
Salary: £20,000 - £30,000 per annum
Location: Wokingham
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908926
About the role

Are you an experienced Letting Negotiator?

A company based in Wokingham is looking for you, an experienced Lettings Negotiator to join their growing team.

The role would cover all duties from submitting properties to let, to enquiries, viewings and all admin alongside. They have a thorough system in place up to when the tenant moves in and everything is handed to the Property Manager.

A lively, lovely and fast paced team, this is the company to join for the next step in your career!

They work on a two week rota and offer a competitive salary!

Don’t delay. apply today!

Read more
New job
Design and Research Assistant
Sector: Media and Internet
Salary: £18,000 - £20,000 per annum
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908924
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Design and Research Assistant on behalf of a company based in Colchester.

The successful applicant will need to be self-motivated, highly organised, proactive, creative and resolutive.

Ideally you will have a design, art or photography background and knows your way around a Mac and wish to put your skills to work and get involved with a fast-paced creative company.

If you enjoy a challenge and are self-motivated, organised, focused and wish to be part of a busy and energetic team then this bespoke, friendly company could be just what you’re looking for.

Experience in the following:

Intermediate to advanced knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, including retouching and an understanding of digital images, resolution and the print process.

Graphic Design skills, and ability to produce design ideas and illustrations to brief.

Highly organised and thorough with good library and resource management.

Independent initiative in researching a variety of subjects.

The role includes:

Development of ideas and creating visual mood boards and brochures.

Design of graphic art, wallpapers, wall murals etc.

Picture research, photographic and graphic.

Scanning, printing and reproduction.

Internet based research.

*** Due to location you will need to drive ***

Read more
New job
Workshop Technician
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: discussed on application
Location: Braintree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908845
About the role

Due to expansion Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Slide (workshop) Technician on behalf of a company based in Braintree, Essex.

The role is workshop based and will involve the complete tear-down, cleaning, inspection, repair, overhaul, functional testing and troubleshooting of aircraft components.

Electro Mechanical experience preferred.

You will be required to work on a variety of aircraft safety equipment and evacuation systems such as evacuation slides, life rafts, helicopter floats, oxygen cylinders, masks and escape slide inflation systems and general survival equipment for both commercial and military aircraft.

General workshop skills required. Someone who is able to follow technical diagrams, strip down, overhaul, repair and re-build.

The position would suit you if you have experience of repairing electro mechanical equipment.

Read more
New job
Transport Co-Ordinator
Sector: Transport, Logistics and Shipping
Salary: £10.50 - £10.75 per hour
Location: Witham
Role: Part Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908915
About the role

Do you have transport experience and seeking a new challenge?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Transport Co-Ordinator to join their client’s team in Witham.

Duties include:

  • Maintain all company vehicles in line with legal requirements and schedules, inspections, MOT, Insurance, tax etc; utilising the Fleetcheck software to show vehicle and driver status to facilitate the smooth operation of the fleet.
  • Maintain a vehicle file for all company vehicle documentation, including V5, contract hire agreements and any other relevant documentation.
  • Monitory and manage driver utilisation of the Fleetchecker vehicle inspection app and reporting functionality. Organise defect rectification in a timely manner.
  • Download and monitor all drivers’ tachographs, the vehicle download data, send to external agency for checking and monitory all drivers hours in line with the legal requirements, EU driving legislation, Great British driving rules and working time directive to ensure that the business and driving staff operate within the legal framework.
  • Ensure all dart charges, congestion charges and other tolls are promptly settled to negate any ongoing unforeseen charges.

Skills required:

  • Experience and knowledge of fleet management, logistics planning in accordance with legislative constraints.
  • Solid computer skills including Word, Excel and Outlook, along with good background IT knowledge to learn bespoke software programs.
  • Excellent communications skills, telephone manner and written word.

Hours Mon - Fri, 7.30am - 12.30pm.

Free parking.

 

Read more
Packing Supervisor
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: £9.00 - £9.73 per hour
Location: Halstead
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908914
About the role

Just Recruitment is looking for a Packing Supervisor on behalf of a company based on the outskirts of Sudbury.

Duties:

  • To make sure all new staff are aware of what is required of them, coach, encourage and support them
  • To oversee the day to day operation of the packing area
  • Participating in the operation of machinery in your area
  • Participating in all work positions within your area
  • Provide support to the shift manager as and when required

Working hours – Normal working hours are from 7:30am – 16:30pm Monday – Friday.

Overtime may be required depending on production needs.

You may be required to work 15 Saturdays/shifts during the working year to suit the requirements of the company.

Read more
Senior SEO Account Manager
Sector: Media and Internet
Salary: £35,000 - £40,000 per annum
Location: Chelmsford
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908909
About the role

Do you have 4 years agency experience in SEO Account Management?

Do you have expert knowledge of SEO strategies?

A fantastic opportunity has become available for a talented individual with a real passion for SEO to join a fast growing, highly reputable digital marketing company based on the outskirts of Chelmsford.

Duties will include:

  • Maintain regular contact with clients at all times, ensuring they are kept up to date on changes and progress within their campaign whilst dealing with any queries that arise
  • Manage the SEO team and support with new business and pitching
  • Have a good knowledge of clients' objectives and campaign results
  • Monitor and understand clients' markets and their environments, you should have views on market issues and be up to date with competitive activity
  • Identify opportunities on and off site to improve performance in organic search results
  • Identify the most effective methods to reach your audience, understand what motivates them and how to target the best prospects
  • Understand and be familiar with the stages and processes involved in developing and implementing SEO strategies
  • Constantly up to date with industry developments so as to anticipate and prepare clients for these changes
  • Responsible for the day to day efficiency of your work and as such should be able to plan your time and responsibilities effectively

Requirements:

  • Minimum of 4 years agency experience in SEO account management and providing clients with comprehensive SEO consultation and execution services
  • Be able to demonstrate extensive experience within an SEO role and have strong analytical capabilities
  • Experience in account managing UK and International brands
  • Expert knowledge of SEO strategies and best practices including technical, outreach and content marketing

This is an amazing opportunity to join a company who offer fantastic benefits!

This is a full-time, permanent position working Monday – Friday 09.00 – 18.00, with early finishes on Friday!!

Interested? Apply today!

Read more